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Future looks bleak for deformed Reform Party

Nov. 2, 1999

Patrick Buchanan, the pitchforked crusader, has finally bid farewell to the Republican Party, a party he arguably did more to damage than promote. A self-described conservative, Buchanan routinely represented the conservative point of view for antagonistic programs like Crossfire and The McLaughlin Group. But how conservative is he really? Buchanan passionately spars with conservatives over free trade and business issues, and many credit his brutal 1992 presidential campaign for weakening President Bush beyond repair.

Buchanan's third run for the presidency has hardly garnered the support he intended, and he blames the Republican establishment and the younger Bush for his poor showing.

By announcing his candidacy for the Reform Party nomination, hardly a surprise after months of rumors and speculation, Buchanan hoped to deliver a final wound to the party he has claimed to support. But the damage is minimal, little more than a glancing blow really. The real impact of his announcement is to create a bizarre amalgamation of characters all vying for the nomination of an oddly assorted party.

For those of you keeping score, potential party

nominees include founding father Ross Perot, Buchanan, Minnesota governor Jesse 'the Foot-in-his-Mouth' Ventura, business tycoon Donald Trump and Hollywood celebrity Warren Beatty.

Perot has given no indication that he will seek the nomination, but it is still his party and many of the delegates are still loyal to him. Ventura shrugged off the notion for months, but his disdain for Buchanan is so immense that he recently said he might run if the people of Minnesota want him to. In the meantime, he has been courting Trump to accept the pay cut and move to a smaller home on Pennsylvania Avenue. Trump has formed an exploratory committee and has teased the media for weeks about his intentions. Beatty is also garnering attention by attacking the Democratic nominees, arguing they aren't liberal enough for him to support.

Sometimes when I close my eyes I see a massive arena with Buchanan rushing in from the right; Beatty making an entrance, stage left; Trump running down the middle, pockets brimming with green bills; Ventura flying off the top ropes; and Perot wildly flapping his ears like Dumbo, gliding down for a soft landing.

What exactly do all these figures have in common philosophically, other than bitterness for the two-party system? Some are in the Reform Party because the Republicans aren't conservative enough, some because the Democrats aren't liberal enough, and still others because the two parties are too extreme. While this may be enough to attract a protest vote, it is hardly enough to win the election.

Unless the party can unite around a consistent theme or policy realm, the party will quickly erode from the promise it once held to a halfway house for disgruntled politicians and disenfranchised voters.

Chris Allen is a senior journalism and political science major from Mineral Wells.